20 Information Gap Activities for the ESL Classroom

Information gap activities refer to activities designed to test students’ contextual knowledge. In them, students don’t have all the information they need to complete a task, but they have to complete the task anyway.

These activities require students to speak and to practice teamwork, working with their classmates to acquire the missing information. Once they’ve learned the information from their classmates, they can fill the “gap” and complete the task or activity.

This clever approach is a great way to get your students speaking because students must work together and communicate clearly in order to successfully complete the given task.

The best part is that information gap activities are very flexible and can be adapted for virtually any topic or lesson.

Check out this list for the best 20 information gap activity ideas.


1. Complete the Text

Practice: Parts of speech

Procedure: Create two versions of a story. Remove different information from each story.

For example, one version of the story might be missing character names and locations (proper nouns) while the other version omits adjectives and adverbs.

Divide the students into pairs and distribute a different version to each student.

Students must work together to complete the story they’ve been given based on the different information each student provides. To do this, students must ask questions to discover the missing information that their teammate has. Ask the students to write in the missing information.

This activity can be adapted for different levels and ages, depending on the story you use and what missing information you choose to focus on.


Student A: What is the name of the first character?
Student B: Her name is Lisa. What adjective is used to describe the “tree” in the second sentence? 

Tip: You can either write your own stories or use some ready-made stories from the internet. 

2. Draw This

Practice: Adjectives and descriptions

Procedure: Divide students into pairs. Give an image or picture to the first student in each pair without showing it to the second student.

The first student describes the picture to the second student. The second student then draws the image based on this description. The second student is allowed to ask questions to help them understand what the picture or image is.

This activity can be adapted for any level. Select pictures that will incorporate language the students have been studying and are familiar with. For instance, in the following example there’s a focus on colors.


Student A: The background is light blue.
Student B: Okay. 

Student A: There is a woman in the middle of the picture.
Student B: What color is her hair?

Student A: Her hair is brown.

Tip: You can turn this activity into a “competition” with the winner being the pair that best replicates the image. If you want to expand the activity, have the students switch roles and provide a second image.

3. Let’s Use the Map

Practice: Location names and directional words

Procedure: This is a fun and relevant activity. Anyone who plans to travel or visit someplace new will need to know how to ask for directions. It’s also useful to know how to give directions in English. You’ll need to pre-teach some key vocabulary terms, such as “turn right” and “turn left.”

Assign students into groups of two. Provide one student with a map of a city or town, either from a real location or one of your own design. Make sure the map is clearly labeled with some of the more common locations.

One student asks for directions to a location: library, theater, hospital, police station, grocery store, etc. Using the map, the other student gives explicit directions. Students should ask clarifying questions and either write down or outline the directions they hear.

Students should take turns in this activity.


Student A: Can I help you?
Student B: Yes. Where is the library? 

Student A: It’s on 5th Street.
Student B: What’s the best way to get there? 

Student A: Take Apple Avenue and turn right.
Student B: Apple Avenue and turn right? 

Student A: Yes. Then walk two blocks and turn left at the hospital. 

Tip: If you’re really ambitious and have the time, ask each student to create their own map to be used in this activity.

4. Job Interview

Practice: Talking about experiences, professions and characteristics

Procedure: Divide students into groups of two. One student is the interviewer, the other is the interviewee.

The interviewer asks typical interview questions. You can either pre-teach these types of questions to the whole class or provide a list of sample questions to each pair.

Provide the interviewee with a profession and short backstory. The information you provide the interviewee can be as detailed or as minimal as you choose and should correlate with the students’ English level.


Student A: Where did you study?
Student B: I studied at ABC University. 

Student A: What did you study?
Student B: I studied medicine. 

Student A: What are your strengths?
Student B: I’m hardworking and passionate. 

5. Making a Grocery List

Practice: Food vocabulary and amounts

Procedure: Ask your students to find a partner. One student is the Chef, the other is the Shopper.

For a beginning ESL class, provide the Chef with a recipe using simple food words and measurements. For more advanced students, ask them to think of their favorite recipe.

The Shopper must create a shopping list based on the Chef’s dish. The Shopper asks questions about the Chef’s recipe to determine what and how much of everything they need to buy. Give students time to reverse roles.


Shopper: What are you making?
Chef: Caesar Salad. 

Shopper: What do I need to buy?
Chef: Lettuce, cucumbers, chicken, and cheese. 

Shopper: What kind of cheese?
Chef: Parmesan. 

Shopper: How much chicken?
Chef: 1 pound. 

Tip: Have some fun with this one! This activity can be adapted for different role play scenarios. Instead of a chef, perhaps the first student is a mother or father who’s asked the second student to do the week’s shopping. The second student needs to write down the list.

6. Charts

Practice: General speaking

Procedure: This is a pretty common information gap activity. It can be effective in encouraging students to analyze and clearly present information, and these charts can be based on just about anything.

For example, a nice way to practice family relationships is the family tree chart.

Divide students into groups of two. Provide each student with a family tree. Student A’s chart has part of the information and Student B’s chart has the rest.

Then the students must work together to make one, complete family tree.


Student A: Who is married to Grandpa John?
Student B: Grandma Elizabeth. 

Student A: How do I spell “Elizabeth?”
Student B: E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H. What year was their first child born? 

Student A: Rebecca was born in 1940. 

Tip: If your students are professionals working in the business sector, you might use business-related charts, like graphs with missing information or spreadsheets with missing numbers.

For more family-themed ESL activities, check out this post: 

7. 20 Questions

Practice: General speaking

Procedure: This is more of a fun English game, but students love it and it’s a great way to practice asking questions and learning new information.

You can do this activity as a whole class, in small groups, or in groups of two.

One student thinks of an item or object. The other students must ask questions in order to figure out what item the student is thinking of. The questions should be “yes” or “no” questions. If the students can’t guess the item within 20 questions, the student who’s thinking of the item wins the game.

If you do this as a whole class, make sure you keep track of how many questions have been asked. In small groups or pairs, the student thinking of the item should keep a tally of how many questions are asked.


Student A: Okay. Go!
Student B: Is it alive? 

Student A: No.
Student C: Is it bigger than my desk? 

Student A: Yes.
Student D: Is it…? 

Tip: As the teacher, you may want to make some stipulations or even assign a category. This way the realm of possible answers is smaller and you have more control over the content.

8. Find the Differences

Practice: Reading comprehension

This is a very detail-oriented activity, so I find that it works best with intermediate to advanced learners. Having a love or appreciation of reading in the target language also makes this more effective.

Procedure: You have to prepare beforehand with this one by printing off two texts that have slight differences. These can be vocabulary choices, sentence structure or even content.

Here’s how it works:

  • Pair up your students.
  • Provide two slightly different written texts to the pairs.
  • They must work together to identify and discuss the discrepancies between the texts.

Once the differences are located by the students, go over the texts as a class to see if everyone found all the differences.

9. Guess the Picture

Practice: Oral speech, specialized vocabulary

Procedure: Provide students with different opinion statements or arguments on a particular topic. Better yet, come up with the topics together. Some examples are:

  • Capital punishment
  • Immigration
  • Gun control
  • AI

Then each student chooses an issue and a side. Each side and topic can only be reserved by one student. 

Then you may give the students a few minutes to research their topic.

Then students have to find their opposition: the student who choose their topic’s other side. Then the discussion begins. They should share their opinions and arguments with one another.

To top it off, students can explain their partner’s rationale on their particular issue with the classroom.

This is a fun one. For this activity, you’ll have to locate and print out some images for the students. I find that having a wide selection works best so different groups can have their own images. It’s also smart to get some tricky images—imagine a duck with human feet or a tree with a cactus top.

To play, put students in pairs.

  • One student in each pair should reveal part of the image. (A piece of cardboard works well for this because it’s rigid.)
  • Then the other partner describes the hidden picture, or what they assume is the rest of the picture, anyway.
  • Then reveal the image and see what surprises are in store.

10. Interview Exchange

Practice: Question formation

Interviews work really well for information gap, because that’s essentially what an interview is.

Procedure: For this game, students should first prepare interview questions as individuals.

Questions like: 

  • Where are you from?
  • What’s your favorite city on earth?
  • What’s your favorite sport/animal/color/food?

Then have students pair up and take turns interviewing each other, making notes about their partner’s responses. Then they should rotate to another group, asking the same questions.

Then students can make note of what they do know to figure out what they don’t know. For example, one student is from Seoul and her favorite city in Paris, so she might speak Korean and French.

11. Missing Information

Practice: Contextual clues, reading

Procedure: This one takes a little preparation. Prepare two handout texts with missing information on it. Think: numbers, names, locations or adjectives. 

Give one version to student A and another version to student B.

They must ask each other questions to fill in the gaps to figure out what the missing information is.

This can actually be quite fun, especially when a funny mistake occurs.

12. Map Directions

Practice: Communicative speech, direction giving

Procedure: For this one, you’ll need some old maps. Do you have an old atlas lying around that you no longer use? That would be perfect. Just tear out pages, photocopy them and then give to each group of students.

To do the activity:

Put students in pairs

Provide two print outs of the same maps to students.

One student has to describe a route using landmarks and street names to guide their partner.

The partner then attempts to recreate the route on their map. 

13. News Report

Practice: Reading, summarizing

Procedure: For this one, you’ll have to print out a bunch of interesting new articles as a resource.

Then put students in pairs.

  • Give different news articles to pairs of students.
  • Each student should read their article and summarize it to their partner, who should take notes.
  • They then they change pair-ups and share the information they gathered with their new partner. 

This allows them to see how accurate they are in describing the missing information.

14. Dialogue Reconstruction

Practice: Speaking and context clues

Procedures: Find a good dialogue that’s appropriate to your level of student. You can find a scene from a play or from a film screenplay that you find online. In one copy, only A is speaking and in the other, only B speaks.

Then you should form pairs and divide the dialogue into two parts., giving one half to each student.

They must work together to reconstruct the complete dialogue.

Then they can act out their scene for the class.

15. Expert Groups

Practice: Specialized vocabulary, public speaking

Procedure: For this activity, start as a class and come up with some interesting topics, such as:

  • Animal testing
  • Vegetarianism
  • Public transport
  • Wearing school uniforms

Once your class has brainstormed about 8-10 topics, put the students in small groups.

Assign different topics to small groups. Each group should become an “expert” on their topic by researching and gathering information.

Afterward, each group gives a short presentation on their topic.

16. Comparative Opinions

Practice: Speaking, expressing opinions

Procedure: This is a great communicative activity that can really get students talking.

Provide students with different opinion statements or arguments on a particular topic. Better yet, come up with the topics together. Some examples are:

  • Capital punishment
  • Immigration
  • Gun control
  • AI

Then each student chooses an issue and a side. Each side and topic can only be reserved by one student. 

Then you may give the students a few minutes to research their topic.

Then students have to find their opposition: the student who choose their topic’s other side. Then the discussion begins. They should share their opinions and arguments with one another.

To top it off, students can explain their partner’s rationale on their particular issue with the classroom.

Tip: Use this as the basis for a classroom discussion to get people talking!

17. Biography Swap

Practice: First-person perspective writing, question formation

Procedure: Ask your students to write a short biography of themselves.

After this, put the students in pairs and have them exchange their biographies. 

Then they prepare questions based on the information that’s provided (and the information that’s left out).

You can have students introduce one another to the class afterward if you want.

Tip: If your students don’t want to write about themselves, they can write about a real life person or even a fictional character.

18. Guess the Word

Practice: Vocabulary building and descriptive skills

Procedure: To prepare for this activity, you need to compile and print off two sets of vocabulary words with their definitions (if you think they need them).

  • Put the students in pairs and provide each student in the pair with a different vocabulary list.
  • Then ask them to take turns describing their words without mentioning the actual word.
  • They take turns describing their word using the definitions without mentioning the actual word.
  • The other student guesses the word.

19. Jigsaw Reading

Practice: Reading comprehension, contextual deduction

Procedure: For this activity, you need to find a good level-appropriate article and then cut the article into two to three sections depending on how big your groups will be.

Divide students into pairs (or groups of three if you’ve divided the article into thirds) and give each student a different section.

Each student should read their portion and become an expert on their part.

Then they come together with their groups and each person shares information about their section of the article.

They do this until they understand the full article.

If you’ve given each group a different article, ask them to present theirs to the class and then suggest other students ask questions.

20. Real or Fake?

Practice: Reading comprehension

Procedure: Before this activity, you’ll need to do a bit of research about a specific topic, ranging from AI to climate change to anything else you or your students are interested in.

Then make a list of true statements about your topic, and also add in some false statements, too.

  • Put students in pairs and hand them each a handout of the list of false and true statements.
  • Ask students to take turns reading statements to their partner. 
  • The partner’s job is to guess if the statement is true or false.


True and false statements about climate change:

  1. Man is causing the earth to warm
  2. The warming is likely caused by carbon
  3. Birds are responsible for climate change
  4. Climate change can be reversed by cutting down trees

Tip: There are lots of these fact lists available online, such as this one. Then you just have to add a couple false statements to complete it.


Remember, these are just a few examples of how you can utilize information gap activities. Get creative and feel free to adapt these ideas to suit your own classrooms, cultures and students.

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